It is the stuff of courtroom dramas – the accused (a gangster) turns the tables on the prosecutor, outing him as the gang’s ultimate protector.
And this is what seemed to be happening in Chongqing earlier this month when 45 year-old Yin Guangde was put on trial for “organising a criminal gang”.
According to the Beijing News, Yin had kept quiet about his alleged affiliation with the prosecutor until the official began pursuing an aggressive line of questioning.
At that point Yin reportedly scolded: “I have always regarded you as a big brother. We used to have such a good relationship. But now you persecute me.”
He then demanded that the prosecutor, called Tang Hao, be removed from the case.
The authorities began a three-year nationwide crackdown on gang activity in January 2018 with a special focus on rooting out ‘protective umbrellas’ – or corrupt officials who shield gangs from prosecution. Thus far more than 200 such ‘umbrellas’ and 79,000 gang members have been arrested, according to Xinhua.
In April the Supreme Court published a series of documents defining criminal gangs – or “evil forces” as it calls them – more clearly.
The group must consist of three people or more and they must have carried out multiple criminal activities over at least a two-year period, it said.
“Violence”, “oppression” and organised criminality such as running brothels or casinos are key features.
But the same advice warned against the crackdown becoming a catch-all for anyone accused of gambling or stealing.
“The standards of identifying such groups should be strictly observed, without narrowing or widening the scope,” Xinhua said.
Sometimes the messages are mixed ones: when the Party’s Central Committee originally announced the campaign in January 2018 it listed “threats to political security and the safety of the political system” as the number one concern.
None of which is to say the problem of organised crime and its relationship with the ‘umbrellas’ isn’t real.
In April it emerged that a gang specialising in illegal mining and sand theft on Hainan was headed by a former police chief called Chen Xinfu.
Quite what will happen to Tang, the prosecutor in Chongqing, remains unclear. He admits he knew Yin, and that he went to karaoke with the alleged gangster. Tang also acknowledges that he once accepted a payment of Rmb10,000 ($1,422) from Yin.
However, he denies being Yin’s “big brother” and said he is happy that the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection is investigating his case.
The confrontation in the courtroom has ignited the public imagination, with people asking why Yin took such drastic action in claiming to expose Tang. One theory is that Yin thought they had a deal that Tang would protect him – only to realise, too late, that Tang was reneging. Another version is that Yin offended Tang a long time ago but that Tang didn’t let on. Instead he bided his time, waiting to do maximum damage to Yin. When that moment came in court, he stuck the knife in deep.
“Even TV shows don’t have twists like this,” one weibo user claimed.
“Revenge is a dish best served cold,” remarked another.
Others found the whole thing depressing, remarking that public officials shouldn’t be accepting money or hospitality from dubious people.
“People like that shouldn’t be prosecutors,” said one “It’s an insult to the rule of law.”
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